The family of Bernard Bailey, who was shot and killed by Eutawville’s police chief in 2011, believes they were robbed in more ways than one.
After federal authorities spent nearly two years investigating the death of 54-year-old Bailey, they closed the case without filing charges.
Bailey’s family was disappointed, as they had hoped to see the former chief, Richard Combs, prosecuted for his actions.
In a statement by their attorney, Bailey’s family stated they believe racism played a role in his death.
But despite the federal agencies’ conclusion, one local prosecutor said the case is not a done deal just yet.
First Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe told The Post and Courier that the State Law Enforcement Division informed him on March 6 that the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil rights division had closed their file on the shooting.
Pascoe said he’s now launched his own probe into the killing, and it won’t take nearly as long to complete. He’s currently assembling a team that will include SLED agents.
Pascoe already has in his possession the case file, which contains more than 500 pages of interviews and statements obtained by the FBI, he said.
“I think I need to interview the witnesses myself or my team does,” Pascoe said. “After looking through the file, I had almost as many questions as I did answers.”
Pascoe said he is not criticizing the federal investigation, but he’d like to follow up on issues raised as a result of the probe. He would not specify further.
Carl Grant, the attorney representing Bailey’s family, released a statement Monday afternoon expressing their frustration with the lack of action in the case.
In the statement, the family said that Bailey, an unarmed black man, was shot three times and killed by Combs, a white officer. “Yet, after 20 months of investigation, the justice department has sadly concluded that since the dead Mr. Bailey and others cannot testify that Combs was uttering racial epithets to Bailey while pulling the trigger, or prove through other means that Combs killed Mr. Bailey because of his race, there is no basis for a civil rights violation prosecution,” it stated.
Bailey, a retired correctional officer, was shot during a confrontation with Combs in the parking lot of the community’s Town Hall on May 2, 2011. Bailey’s friends have said the shooting apparently stemmed from a dispute over a traffic ticket issued to one of Bailey’s daughters, but officials have refused to discuss details about the case.
“We have no intentions of fanning the flames of racism, the facts are the facts. But we hope that any fair minded person who has a nose can recognize the putrid, sickening and gut wrenching smell of injustice when it enters the room,” the family’s statement said.
Combs was originally placed on leave but was later terminated on Nov. 1, 2011, according to S.C. Criminal Justice Academy records.
Combs’ attorney, Norma Jett, did not return a message left at her office, and a phone number for Combs could not be located.
A representative with the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division did not return a call seeking comment.
Reach Natalie Caula at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.
Bernard Bailey was fatally shot in Eutawville in 2011. After two years of inquiries, federal investigators have closed the case without filing charges.×
A SLED crime scene photographer takes part in the investigation where Bernard Bailey was shot and killed outside the Orangeburg County town’s offices and police department on May 2, 2011.×